Summer jobs aren’t enough to pay for college anymore

Posted on August 2nd, 2016

Millennials may hear their parents reminisce about putting themselves through college by working a summer job and part-time during the school year, but those days are long gone, NPR reports.

NPR broke down the costs of attending college in 1981-82 and how much students would have to work in order to cover their expenses that year. They then compared this to how much students would need to work to pay for college today with a minimum wage part-time or summer job, and the results are striking.

Older generations could afford college on their own

Here’s a summary of NPR’s analysis for students attending college in 1981-82:

  • In 1981-’82, the average full cost to attend a 4-year college for one year was $2,870, including tuition, fees and room and board.
  • The maximum Federal Pell Grant award, given to students with significant financial need, was $1,800 that year.
  • That left a student to pay $1,000 that year. When you add in some extra funds for fun and spending money, that’s about $1,820 more, leaving the student with a balance of $2,870.
  • The minimum wage that year was $3.35 an hour, meaning it would take working 842 hours to make that additional $2,870. This comes out to 16 hours a week year-round (a good part-time job), or nine hours a day for three straight months (a full-time, seven-day-a-week summer job).
  • More likely, students would combine a part-time job during the school year with a more reasonable 5-day-a-week summer job, making it relatively easy to make up the difference.

Today’s students don’t earn enough to pay for college

Unfortunately for students in 2016, it’s no longer that easy to make the necessary funds the pay for college and other activities with a part-time and/or summer job.

college student summer job

While older generations could pay for college with a summer or part-time job, today’s college students don’t earn enough to pay their higher college costs.

According to the College Board, for this past academic year, the total cost of tuition, fees and room and board for in-state students at four-year public universities was $19,548.

The maximum Federal Pell Grant was just $5,775, leaving students on the hook for $13,773.

Based on that amount and the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, a student would now have to work 37 hours a week, every week of the year, to make enough money to cover their college costs.

Studies suffer when students work more

However, this simply isn’t reasonable for a college student who’s also taking a full courseload and trying to maintain good grades and a healthy, active social life.

According to Inside Higher Ed, research shows that when college students work more than 20 hours a week their studies suffer. Students working full time are likely to take longer to finish school and end up paying even more in tuition.

And a summer job won’t help too much either. Over 90 days, a student would need to work 21.1 hours a day to cover the rest of their college costs, which is simply unreasonable.

Even if they work in a city with a higher minimum wage, they’re likely paying much more in rent, which negates some of their additional earnings.

Students borrowing more to make up the difference

Given all of these statistics, it’s little wonder why students (and their parents) are borrowing more than ever–and at much higher rates–to pay for college.

While their parents’ generation could work enough to put themselves through college with little outside help, today’s students would jeopardize their health, studies and overall well-being if they worked enough to cover all of their college costs.

While the best solution would be for colleges to lower their costs and for wages to rise significantly, neither of those is likely to happen quickly enough to make a significant impact on most students.

How to pay for college without student loans

Luckily, there are some options for students who need help paying for college.

Students can look for outside scholarships to help make up the difference, and financial aid packages are the highest they’ve ever been.

And, despite the numbers, getting a part-time or summer job can also help students make up the difference and reduce the amount of money they take out in student loans without jeopardizing their financial aid awards.

We help students and families find ways to make college affordable and maximize their financial aid while avoiding significant student debt.

If you’d like to learn how we can help you, call us at 1-888-234-3907 or send us a message and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

Category: College Costs

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